Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Connecting Reading and Math

Do you ever need to move on to the next concept even though you know your kids aren't quite ready? Wish I could sit on multiplication a bit longer but according to the pacing calendars I needed to move on over a week ago...Yikes! My kids are already looking dazed and confused!

I'm hoping to ease them into division with some concrete hands on experiences to make it more meaningful and keep them engaged. I'm using literature and these wonderful books to help them understand what it is all about. Love how I can sneak some reading into math! These are awesome books and they have them for all sorts of math concepts.... I introduced the whole concept of division as sharing with the book, The Doorbell Rang. So cute and kids could relate to the idea of sharing. We read and discussed the math throughout this book.

After reading the book, the kids got cookies (cookie crisip cereal) and worked on dividing the cookies.

I led them through this activity so I could continuously make the connections between what they were doing and what we had just learned about multiplication.

Those who were productively working got the right to eat their cookies afterwards.

Here is the recording sheet I made for this activity if you would like it:

Division as Sharing

The next step is to give them experience with division as repeated subtraction. Here is the sheet I made up for this one. I'm using it on Groundhog's Day. Another way third graders can get the holiday in and still keep up with the curriculum!

Here it is if you would like to sneak it in as well....Have fun!

Division Groundhog

Monday, January 30, 2012

Groundhog's Day and Poetry

Groundhog's Day is one of those holidays that just sneaks up on me. I'm swamped in curriculum and am ready to start heavy units like the Explorers but will find a way to work the Groundhog in somewhere.

One place that seems to work well is in poetry. I love that poetry is short and manageable but hits so many of my language arts and sometimes content objectives. We'll be looking at how good writers vary their sentence length using this poem. Lots of long and stretchy sentences in this one. We will look at this poem with both our reader's and writer's eyes. We'll highlight pizzazzy writing like the description of the "leafy bed" and the word "glorious". Here is the Sentence fluency target we are trying to hit. We refer to these posters all the time! We'll definitely work on reading with fluency with this one. Some expression too as the groundhog is speaking throughout this one. Good poem for reviewing the quotation mark.

Here is the poem and follow up. As shown on the picture above (different poem) my students cut the poem off and glue it into their analogy and add their own illustration and labels or captions. The follow up is filled out and graded by me.

Poem Groundhog

Please feel free to use this one. Comment or email if you get a chance to let me know so I know if people want me to keep posting the poems. I do one almost every week. I can start posting them once a week if people want them.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday's Words For the Week: Creating a Retreat

I would say many of us would get the same diagnosis at this point in the year! From the response of last Sunday's post I can tell that teachers are as stressed as the kids these days. We're half way through the school year yet have so much more teaching to go. The pressure to get kids ready for their next school step is real and weighing heavily on many of our minds.

So how can we deal with it all without making ourselves crazy or taking it out on our families? I must say that I rely on the teachings found in this book to help me manage the stress and busyness that is my life.

Here is an excerpt on stress and rest: God commands us to rest (Exodus 16:23) So how can we tap into this rest? Simply abide. To rest, I have only to shut out the distractions of the world,draw deep within, and commune with the Lord in the quiet center of my heart where He resides. Though winds of conflict and waves of busyness assail me, I rest safely in the arms of the One who whispers, "Peace, be still."

Lovely words. It is during these quiet moments that I find I am best able to find peace with the stress and change my thoughts and attitudes and make the choice to let the stress go and trust in what is to come.

In my book study class, we talked about creating a home retreat or sanctuary in which to go to find this peace. A bunch of us are creating and sharing our ideas with each other. Mine is simple, a cozy window seat with things nearby that I love and find comfort in like family pictures, books of inspiration, candles, music. It is a place I go to pray and seek God's guidance. Do you have such a place in your home. Do you think it would help if you did? Please join and show us your home retreat.
Please link up and show us a picture (I'll try to show mine next week) or email and tell us about it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spin a Story and Sequencing

I don't know about you, but these short weeks are killing me! I mean we had a workday on Monday and only four days with kids but I'm exhausted! I need a snowday something fierce, something like THIS maybe:

Wow, can you imagine? We'd be out until May around here! I'm a bit bitter, we haven't had ANYTHING to speak of and it's already the end of January! So instead of playing in the snow, I'm hanging out with my students trying to teach them a thing or two about Energy. I'm whipping through this unit and trying to tie some language arts into it all.

I like using these reuseable anchor charts with these gigantic post it notes that we can fill out but then remove so we can do it again and again with other stories. Here is our sequence chart for The Story of Fern the Fossil and How Coal is Formed. We sequence using a Thinking Map of course. This one is the sequence chain. Perfect for retellings:

My students used the "Spin A Story" wheel to retell the events in the order in which they happened. There is just enough room in each section to tell the main point and draw a picture. I like that because we are leading up to Summarizing where you only give the "gist" of the story.

More examples of their great work...will they remember it for the Benchmark Test this week??

We're talking a lot about increasing the quality of our work since we are getting closer to fourth grade. Maybe I'm rushing it a bit but with high fifty degree weather, it feels like spring this week. Anyway, this one did a great job.

Here is the wheel in case anyone would like it. I ran it on tag so it would hold up better.

Scan 0011

Scan 0010
Have a great end of the week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

The first month of 2012 is FLYING by! I found this and loved it! It's hanging on my bulletin board in my home office where I can see it everyday. Well, I didn't pick a great week to begin my focus on my 2012 goal of "live in the moment". I was sick and my moments were filled with flu like symptoms! My kids did a good job putting up with a teacher who couldn't get through a lesson without a coughing fit and one who gave far too many independent activities. A sweet moment came when a boy entered the room one morning, looked at me and said, "Oh thank God! I was sure we were going to have a substitute!" He then proceeded to greet kids as they came saying, "It's OK guys, Mrs.Young's here." Honestly, I was touched. I wouldn't have wanted me for a teacher last week! (:

I try to go for a good run every day if I can. Last week I was doing good just to drag myself out the door and into my classroom. I missed my workouts and felt myself getting crankier and crankier. I got back on the treadmill this weekend and am a new person!

So true for me! Do you think this works for our students too? In the book, "The Highly Engaged Classroom", Robert Marzano shares research that indicates that programs which promote physical movement have a positive effect on students' ability to attend and focus.

He mentions a school that created an "Exer-learning Lab" that is equipped with treadmills and stationary bikes connected to video consoles. Selected students with academic concerns spend time here prior to reading to help them focus better when back in the classroom. What do you think about that?

I wanted to finish this post by mentioning Rachel's word for 2012 posted in the comments last week. It is BREATHE! I loved it...awesome! It made me think of what a great destressing strategy just breathing is! I got a chance to hear someone speak on High School Student Stress a few years back. She shared the 1-3-10 strategy with us. Do you know of it? I train my students to use it in the beginning of the year. It uses slow breathing as a way to help students deal with school stress and to get them ready to learn. I use it if the energy level is too high in the classroom, like sometimes after recess or lunch or if we are ready to learn something new and hard. (Or sometimes if their teacher is feeling stressed and needs it!) It really does work. Here are the steps below if you want to give it a try:
One Three Ten

How about you? Do you have a calm down strategy that you use with your students? I'd love to hear!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Eye Spy: Baseword Bottles

Thinking maps just make sense to me and to my students. I use them alot across the curriculum.

Here is a quick idea for using a bracemap to reinforce the important reading skill of identifying basewords and prefixes and suffixes. This is a skill we are currently working on as part of lit stations. I just filled an empty bottle with rice and added word cards. Students take a bottle and search and find a word to record on the recording sheet. Then they use a bracemap to break the word into its parts: the baseword and the suffix or prefix.

When the student records the two parts they need to be sure that they record the whole word. A good example would be the word, GIVING the two parts would be GIVE and ING not GIV and ING. The student response will help you gauge whether or not the student has a solid understanding of what a baseword is and how the e drop rule is applied for this word.

I've used this same idea and have made contraction bottles and compound word bottles. The bracemap works the same way. They record the whole word first and then break the word into its parts.

Here is a recording sheet for the baseword bottles if interested.

Base Word Bottles

I've been fighting a cold all week so I'm going to go crawl onto the couch and watch some mindless tv to end my Friday. That sounds pretty heavenly to me right about now.

Yes, week + end means one tired but happy teacher!
Hope your week went well!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pinterest Recipe Success!

This post is pretty off topic except for the fact that as teachers I think we are all looking for quick, easy yet delicious dinner ideas. With lesson plans, conferences, grading, who has time for cooking?? I know of some who find cooking relaxing but for me it is just the opposite. Dinner is just one more thing on my to do list. I want simple cooking and clean up! So here is another reason I love pinterest. I'm finding tons of yummy looking recipes to try, and I can keep the pins of the ones that work for me. It's like having my own on line cookbook.
I'm trying out some recipes I found and letting my family rate them. And you know they are simple because if they aren't I'm not even going to try them. Here are some winners. In our house my family calls them, "Do Overs". You can find all these recipes on my Pinterest or just click the link to go directly to the recipe site.

Here is Number One: This baked chicken parmesan dish got huge raves from everyone. I LOVE, LOVED, LOVED the simplicity of it. Great for a busy evening. You can get it assembled super quickly and then have time to get to that stack of papers you need to grade while it bakes. Yeah, or maybe do what I did and bag the papers and instead just pin some more.

This next one is also YUM-O! Packed with great flavor and mine came out moist and delish. Also got great review from everyone. So simple and this one baked in just 25 minutes.


OK then top it all off with the BEST banana pudding recipe ever! Love me some Paula Dean puddin'! The Chessman cookies on top made a great presentation. I took it to a church potluck and it got gobbled up. I try not to do much sugar but this was just tooooooo good. Great comfort food dessert after a stressful day, but watch out you might end up eating the whole darn thing!


So now your turn...Have you had pinterest recipe success. Oh please do tell!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Organizing Books and Class Government

Hee, hee! Actually I'm not that bad as far as wigging out if there is a bit of disorder in my room. Where you have kids learning and doing there will be some sort of mess. But there is one trouble spot room that does get to me and it's my class library. I've gone back and forth on the organization of my books. I've organized by reading levels before but now have them ordered by genre since that is the way I present books during reading lessons. The baskets in my library are tagged this way. This is how it SHOULD look. I wish I had a shot of what it looks like on a typical day...believe me it can look like a tornado hit it! Books misplaced or let's be real and say "thrown in" or scattered on the floor and book chairs and pillows tossed in a heap!

It began to aggravate me to no end! Books have all been color coded to match the sign on the basket so there really is no excuse! I began to think it really is not MY problem it's THEIR problem so I decided to let them solve it.

Here is where our class government comes in. We set up our class government after learning about Greece and Rome and how they established the democracy from which our country's government is modeled. We learned about the representative democracy of Rome and as we were reading about it the kids were just looking at me with these dazed and confused looks. I could tell they were not getting it so I decided to set up a representative democracy in our class and make it "real" for them.

My students' desks are set up in groups that we have named after the continents. The first thing we needed to do was figure out who our class representatives would be. They had the option to run for the position of their table team's representative. Everyone chose to run for this office! They all made a campaign poster for themselves and we spread them around the room. On their posters they had to advertize themselves. Wish I had taken pictures...some were so good and funny too! Then we voted and elected representatives for each group. I was proud of my kids, they really did vote for people who would be fair and responsible. It was not a popularity contest! Good for them!

Now this group of representatives will meet with me when class problems arise or decisions need to be made. We meet for simple things like to determine what to do for indoor recess or problems like....how to handle the mess at the book area

Even if a student is not a representative they have a right to present ideas. They do that by writing to their "leader". That would be me! I have a mailbox they can put their letters in and I check it after school

Do they have a lot to say? You BETCHA!

I will then call a quick meeting with my representatives and they will talk with me about possible ideas which they will go back and present to their teams. After that a vote is taken.

Here is our ballot box:

So what can be done about the problem in the book area? The kids decided that a Class Librarian job should be assigned to reorganize at the end of the day. It will get added to our Job Jar. They also said that class citizens must be more responsible about returning books properly and made it a class law to do so. Lawbreakers will need to pay a fine! Sounds like real life, don't you think!

We'll see how it goes! Do you have other suggestions on how to keep the book area tidy? Would love to hear!

Here are my class government documents. I always have a bunch on hand just in case we need to decide something. Feel free to use them if you wish!

Government Class

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

First let me thank all my sweet friends who emailed me their 2012 Focus Words. Here are some of them:
Jill's word is Serenity. She wants to find more peace in her day.
Cathy's word is Fearless. She wants to let go of fear and trust.
Jay's words are Eyes Wide Open. She wants to be more aware of all the good in her life and give thanks.
Angie's words are Be Still and Know.
Taylor's word is Patience.

Such good words! They are inspirational!
Nothing moves me emotionally or spiritually more than music. I can relate to the words on this button. In fact, there are many times that music IS playing in the background of my mind! Tell me I'm not the only one!

So my words were inspired by a song. I was driving in the car when I first heard the song, Stones Under Rushing Water, on the radio. Good thing I was alone because tears came streaming down my face on hearing it. I was honestly surprised at how it touched me and at my own response.

Where did the years go? How can it be that I've been teaching for over 20 years? How is it that my son is almost 16? What I wouldn't give to go back and live some of those years again! I want to start living at a slower pace with more appreciation for the small moments that I many times take for granted. So my 2012 words are going to be: Live in the Moment.

Do you have any suggestions/help for me with my goal? I love reading motivational or inspirational book. Do you know of any on the topic? I'm touched by the positive responses you all have given about Sunday's Words For the Week. I LOVE to hear your thoughts! Email or comment below if you would like to share your word with us!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Applying Spelling Rules

We run a word study program in our county. My kids do great on their weekly work and rock their spelling tests. But then some turn around the next day, or maybe even the next hour and misspell that type of word in their writing. So frustrating!
In an attempt to get them to become more accountable we've made a number of these posters that hang on our wall. I will no longer fix their spellings but refer them to the poster and they must do it themselves. I try to make sure they are involved in the making of the reference posters. Here is the one we recently made for Plural Nouns:

Do you use hand paddles in your class? I love them and would say they are one of my favorite instructional tools to use (outside of my smartboard of course). I love them because everyone can respond to a question at the same time. I got these from Oriental Trading years ago and they have held up well. Here we are using them to practice the application of the rules we are learning.

My thought is repetition, repetition, repetition. So we played a game called Roll A Snowman to practice the spelling of these kinds of words. Player one reads a word off of player two's spelling list. Player Two writes it on the recording sheet. Player One checks it and if it is correctly spelled Player Two gets to roll the die and draw the part of the snowman indicated in the rules box. They continue in this manner until someone has a complete snowman drawn.
The game idea of Roll A Snowman came from "Little Giraffes". http://www.littlegiraffes.com/ I used to use this sight all the time when I taught preschool.
Here is an example of a player's sheet:

Here is the document if you would like it. Like how I botched the spelling of the Link Title?? Maybe I should have edited myself! My students would be giving me grief right about now. Ha!

Roll as Now Man 0001
Please share...How do you get your kids to apply what they have learned about spelling? Any tips would be appreciated by all!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

5 Finger Retell Glove and Dollar Deals!!!!

TGI almost F! It was the first full week since the Winter Break, plus a full moon, plus our first sight of snow! Let's throw in midyear assessments while we are at it! Wow,what a LONG week!

BUT... things are looking brighter because I just got the email that Scholastic's Teacher Express Dollar Days are back!! LOVE THIS SALE! These are their teacher resource books ( ebooks versions) for $1.00! There are hundreds of different ones to look through...I'm serious. Best thing is that you can preview the entire book to see if it is really something you would use and some of these are regularly priced at $20.00. So set aside some weekend time because it ends on the 18th. I bought lots of these last winter when they did dollar deals and have loved using them. I almost prefer them to the real books since you can print pages right off.
Here's the link....Happy Shopping!

Have you hit this sale before? PLEASE comment or email with what titles you bought and love
I'm only allowing myself ten dollars worth and I'm having a hard time making up my mind!

OK, now for something FREE! I did want to pass along the circle images for this glove. I had so many requests for them yet I had not saved it the first time I made it. I tried scanning the circles and the image I got is down below. Not great but it is there if you would like to use it. I printed them in color onto cardstock and laminated them. I attached them to the fingers using glue dots and that worked pretty good.

It's a great time to make one of these. All the gloves are on sale and the swimsuits are on the racks! Summer? Sure, If it is not going to snow...I say BRING IT ON!

Have a GREAT weekend!

Scan 0008

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Memorizing Facts? Let's Play A Game

Like it or not, third graders need to spend time learning or let's say memorizing factual information. In Virginia our kids learn about the Ancient Civilizations of Greece, Rome and Mali. It involves them remembering names of rivers, temples and other facts. They need to know it and will be tested on this information come spring on the state test.

In trying to come up with a way to make the study of this info a little less painful I had my kids create gameboards to go along with a set of question cards. We brainstormed the questions together and I typed and printed them out. It was a rainy day today so kids couldn't go out for recess anyway so it was a perfect day to make a game. The kids were told to create a game that showed what they know about the civilizations. I'm grading them on these boards and using a rubric that assesses: content, quality and creativity. Here are some examples of what they came up with:
I loved this one. The game pieces are the little Greek figures.

This one is building a road across the board. We learned that the Romans were masters at road building!

This board includes the god Zeus. You don't want to get Zeus angry when playing this one!

This one has tiles and the markers. We learned that the Greeks and Romans decorated their buildings with mosaic tiles!

The kids were productive and busy! They did a pretty good job of monitoring their voice levels. Here is our voice meter. Our entire building uses these voice levels and I love the consistency throughout the whole school.

My kids will get to try out their boards tomorrow by playing it with friends. Then this will go home as part of their Make It and Take It Study Packet for the Civilizations. Hopefully moms and dads will spend some time playing a round or two with kids.

Here are the questions my kids came up with for my Stafford and Fairfax Friends (or anyone else who teaches this content).

Greece Rome Study Questions

Monday, January 9, 2012

Using Thinking Maps to Compare/Contrast

I don't know what all of your pacing calendars look like but ours is CRAZY fast and jam packed! Because our time is so tight and I have absolutely NO wiggle time I had better be wise in picking the most meaningful activities I can for my students to engage in.

So this year Jill and I have made it our goal to utilize a variety of researched brain based learning tools in both of our classes to help students learn and retain as much as possible and we are documenting our results. We are at different schools at different grade levels with different populations of kids so it will be interesting to compare. All the research out there points to visual representations as a powerful learning tool. I've taught my kids that the visuals are the glue that cements the learning in their brains. Here are some good books we are reading on the topic: I really love Thinking Maps as a tool to help students construct meaning in every subject area. We use them in math, reading and the content areas.

I believe in getting the kids involved in the actual construction of as many thinking map posters as possible and if I can make a chart interactive then it is all the better! Here is a great example.

Today we were reviewing our learning on the Ancient Civilizations of Greece and Rome. The Double Bubble is ideal for this type of thinking. I wrote the topics of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome in the main bubbles and then started to hand out minibubbles for students to record information about the civilizations. Then they illustrated their facts. Next came to sorting and classifying of details as either belonging to Greece, Rome or both. As we taped them onto the chart we wrote a G, R, or B on the back of each detail.

I'll remove the minibubbles from the chart and place them along with the big poster in a literacy station for partners to come and work with. It is self checking since we wrote the letters on the backs of the bubbles. This along with extra research books and post it notes will make a great literacy station during guided reading time. Very simple, no fuss and the students created the learning tool. The follow up research makes it differentiated as students are researching answers to their own questions using a wide range of books on different reading levels.

After a while this double bubble will aid us by becoming the prewriting graphic organizer for a paragraph comparing/contrasting the civilizations. Triple bonus!

How about you? What do you think about using graphic organizers in the classroom? I would LOVE to hear what you think!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

How is 2012 going for you? A friend and I are picking our words for 2012 this week. We come up with one focus word that will lead our year. Last year my word was "gratitude". I'm still thinking about my word for this year. I will share it next Sunday. Would you like to join us? Come back next Sunday and post your Word of 2012!

For inspiration please listen to Will Smith's take on life. All I could say was WOW afterwards. I was moved by his words.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Not So Ordinary Estimation Station & A Winner

Here is an idea for a not so ordinary Estimation Station.

It's a real challenge for young children to keep units of measurement organized in their little brains. How can we expect them to remember inches from meters from liters from grams from pints etc. etc. etc. the list goes on and on! It can be mind boggling for adults yet we want our wee ones to keep all the metric and standard measurement straight AND to be able to use them effectively!

One way I try to help them along is by giving them lots of practice using different measurement tools and units of measurement all year long...not just during the two weeks or so when I teach the unit.

This is where the Estimation Station fits in. It is not the kind of station where you throw some candy in a jar and ask kids to estimate the number. Instead I set up a situation in which kids have to estimate the size, weight or even temperature of things. I set up the situation in the beginning of the week and then students have until the end of the week to visit that area and make their estimation. At the end of the week we measure to find out the actual measurement. Here is an example of the estimation we have set up currently in our room:

I write what they are estimating and in what unit on sticky notes so I can change it out each week or so. Some other estimations we have done:
time it takes for icecube to melt in minutes, temperature inside a mitten in degrees Fahrenheit, weight of a piece of coal in grams, etc. etc.

Kids can even help you think of some! There are weeks when I put a child in charge of running the whole station.

Here is an estimation station sign for those who may try this idea out.

Estimation Station 2
OK here is another one...estimate the number of days late Doris will be in announcing the winner of the questioning apron? 1, 2, 3 days...no! The correct answer is 6 days late. Yikes! Time certainly got away from me. Better late than never huh? The name picked out from the hat was: Paula!! Congrats!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chill Out with a Cool Book!

Hello Everyone! Hope your first few days back have gone smoothly! It is as cold as the arctic around here which makes me think PENGUINS! Here is a penguin book report idea if anyone is interested My kids are into giving book commercials to advertise their books right after reader's workshop. This writing activity is basically the commercial written down. They rated the books at the end. Commercials really have helped motivate my students to read different books that they may not have picked up on their own. Check this one out! Penguins with personality!

You can pick 
up my whole penguin unit here: 
Penguins: A Snow Day Winter Unit for January